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Fast

It was fast. Scary fast. And frozen hard. I haven’t had a 100% icy groomer day in a long time, but today I got my fill, and then some.

Filtered sun and hopes of softening were kept at bay by a persistent east wind. It wasn’t even a cold wind, just enough to cancel the sun’s effect. Since we never ventured more than 1-2 turns off piste before turning back due to the nastiness, there was only one thing to do. Go fast. I’ve never tucked from the top of Green Valley all the way through and including Sluiceway. Some scary moments as the compressions maxed out my leg control.

Luckily there were some Amigos to chase. If alone, I would have spent a lot more time analyzing whether or not I was having fun. But it was fun, even the scary parts. Jittering eyeballs on chattery ice, high pressure carving turns at speed, holding a tuck because the wind would lift your skis, and laughing at the absurdity of having fun in such poor conditions.

Kkz

Forecast
Since the high pressure moved east, the next precipitationable weather is moving in. The mountain is in horrible shape and it doesn’t look like there is enough snow in this system to fix the problem. And the fact that some of it will come as rain tuesday - First day of spring my ass.

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Hiding

I thought I’d made a horrible decision. Wringing some fun out of today required heat from the sun, check, and smoothing of yesterday’s now-frozen rain, no check. The groomers were icy and hard. It only took getting one ski onto the off-piste to realize the no-go zone was gonna be huge. As far as you could see - it was cloudless blue skies - the ungroomed parts of the mountain were cut-up now frozen glob. Or, full of avalanche debris and rolling slush frozen chicken, goat, and cow heads.

After a couple too-fast, too-icy, edgeless groomers I was wishing I’d stayed in bed. Luckily, I rode up the chair with a ski patroller. She suggested heading to Northway. In my head I told myself that sounded like a really bad idea. Until, I realized Northway had been closed yesterday during the big rain. Paradise Bowl Trees was untracked over a supportive (non-breakable) and carvable rain crust. 4-8” of buttery new just for the taking. Same on Penny Dawg Trees, Bruce’s Bowl to Paradise, Puckers, and Penny Dawgs proper. Wow, the best snow on the mountain hiding in plain sight as the weekend masses skidded down Luckyshot. I’ll let some video tell the rest of the story.

Kkz

Forecast

Who knows? Tomorrow is the first day of spring and the snow feels like it. Frozen mornings lead to either frozen glop afternoons or soft bumps of fun depending on the temps and skier smoothing. We’ll see if tomorrow morning remains clear and turns to fun, or clouds cancel the warming and it’s an icy groomer day.

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Rain Delay

This season has devolved into another rain delay, waiting for conditions to recover from very warm temps and many inches of rain to mountaintop. Needing either lots of snow or sunny heat, neither of which has been on the weather delivery truck, I sat at the computer and put together the video clips from last year. A year very similar to this year with excellent snow, powder days, and the every-couple-weeks waiting for recovery from a rain event. Take a peek.

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Snowy

It was snowy today. Snow in the air, all day. Deep snow on the slopes, all day. Best of all, snow on my grinning face.
Today was another sampler of new untracked. No need for a cold groomer “warm-up”, as diving right into (onto? I’ll stick with into as we were shin deep into… ) Sunnyside was deep-snow-brain satisfying. Although my legs complained some from the harsh wake up call, it was one of those runs that tells you it’s going to be a great day.

My brain was worn out this morning trying to decide where to ski or which runs might be best. So…. Let the universe decide as the fog and visibility set our course to Door 4, LS Trees, Bear Pits, Door Zero. Hey, you can see the top of Exterminator. OK, I’ll go. Woohoos of deep untracked ensued all the way through Lower E. A green NW light sent us past a crowd dropping left as we dropped right into/onto Employee Housing. The Housing Effect had turned 4” of new overnight into 18-24”. Thank you Universe. It’s great to have a guide that takes on the stress of finding the best snow. And takes the blame (off me) for a loser.

We found a new way onto Upper Bull that is softer and more untrackeder - perfect. And somehow, the universe vortex kept calling us back to Exterminator variations. No bad ideas there.

We did make one mistake. Right Angle. The most skied out area and the most scrappy little trees. It woulda been fine any other non-deep-pow day, but I couldn’t figure out how, or why, so many people had gone there. Somewhere between NW Gate 9 and Rex is a Top-to-Bottom run that at mid day was not only still deep untracked, but the best snow/run of the day. Go exploring. We had to repeat it as a closer, and still, only our tracks.

Very nice to have JD with a day-pass from the injured reserve list. Unfortunately, still missing my main girl, Amigoette. Going in for an MRI tomorrow. 

Quote of the day - “All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine” Jeff Spicoli

Kkz

Forecast

If you go skiing tomorrow, go early. If the timing changes much, the day may be short as the next storm rolls in. Things look wild thursday evening and friday. Lots of snow that with rising snow levels will probably turn to rain at some point. How much rain, how long? Could be a huge wet dump of snow or hell to pay on saturday as it cools down. Stay tuned.

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No Repeat Monday

Inadvertently did something new today. Cold and clear, we decided to ski the open areas of The Frontside while visibility was good. And so started the cycles. Opening with Sunnyside, boot-top and deeper fluff covered a findable-but-avoidable crust. 15 different runs later the only difference we found was some deeper, some bigger bumps under, and some steeper. 

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About halfway through the day I realized that we hadn’t found a run that said “ski here next run”. And we hadn’t found a run that said “stay away” either. Meaning we hadn’t repeated a run, and since every run so far was good, it became a thing to ski the whole day without a repeat. And just to line them up in order: Bear Pits, Outer Ferk’s, Doors Four, Three, Two, One, Showtime, Breakover, Sunnyside, Gully-Gully, Memorial, Gondy Line Right, Exterminator, Eagles Drop, Employee Housing. Conditions weren’t Great, but were very Good. Consistency was the factor that made it Great. Once you figured out the crust level and how to read the powder covered bumps and lumps, it was haul ass fun.

Other than a half hour of visibility killing, face numbing, dumping snow, the sun was mostly out. I call that perfect. Unfortunately, the mid-day sun will likely heat damage the sunny aspects as you could feel it getting heavy - if you slowed down and wiped that grin off your face.

Here's today’s rant. Crystal has continued acting-like-a little-Podunk ski area and is closing lifts whilst charging full price. Northway is now closed on monday and tuesday again (not advertised on the 8-feet-of-new website). Heard a rumor it will be closed all mid-week soon. 74$ for a day ticket and 1/4 of the mountain was closed. I cry discrimination against monday skiers. Would have been some awesome snow out north if you could get to it. 

Longing for Northway aside, we did what needed to be done today. And set a new personal record for number of different runs without a repeat. Although there were still a few runs to add, time and legs wore out, and this one headed home.

PS - Want to see some bad snow? Bad snow that was a lot of fun at the time, but puts the nice snow this season in perspective. I pulled out some video of the 14-15 rock, brush, and Green Valley season. Just for historic, hysterical, and to clean up some disk space reasons. Click Here

Kkz

Forecast

Tuesday should be snowy and cool adding some new, although heavy at the base. Wednesday will cool off again and precip diminishes (that’s my choice). Cool and light snow thursday. Go get it before friday, looks like another rain/wet to the top day. Then slam the temps back down to crunch it up for the weekend. Roller coaster ride this weather is.

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Rewind

The skiing this season has been really good - if you ignore the rain events once a month. It's taken some real weather sleuthing to hit the right days, but when it comes together, our favorite powder runs have delivered. Delivered like they didn't the previous 2 seasons - especially 2014-15. To put things in perspective, I finally pulled out video clips from those days of rocks, grass, and slushy moguls. I never stopped using my rock skis, all the big runs were bare and shut down by the end of january - and we had some fun. We took a trip to Big Sky where they had more snow, but only of the smooth, hard mogul variety. So rewind the memory banks and take a look. It'll make this year seem tremendous.

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No We Didn't

The mantra in the lodge this morning was “You shoulda been here yesterday”. I love saying that. Today I was on the receiving end, as I picked monday and wednesday to ski. I couldn’t whine because the sun was out, mostly, the leftovers were great, and Northway, which was closed yesterday, was waiting for patrol to open.

It’s been cold for so long - other than the rainy days - that I forgot how to ski when the snow warmed up into the mid/upper 20s. The cut up leftovers were soft and a little heavy. Took me awhile to apply enough momentum to blast through. And legs that had been loafing along through smoky fluff the last month felt the strain of being asked to hold tight as the thicker snow pulled and tugged.

Green light! Northway opened to a rush of those in the know heading to their favorite gate. Ours was #4. I wasn’t the first, but close enough to get untracked in the trees. Dropped off the big bulge into 2 feet of fluff. Fluff that didn’t slow me down at all as I bottomed out hard on solid rock. I started skiing my new skis 4 trips ago. New skis that sat for 2.5 years of low/crappy coverage waiting to be taken out to play. They ski great. Just like my old ones - as they’re the same ski only with new sharp edges. And now some P-Tex that needs some love.

Pucker’s Right even better. And I didn’t hold it against Pucker as high speed and a sudden thigh deep patch took me down. All’s fun in the powder game. Heading for a repeat, all the tracks turned left at Penny Dawgs. Funny how just looking at untracked pow makes my skis turn right. Best of the day. And repeat.

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Hottest run, temperature wise, was Employee Housing. And I was in my best Blast Mode state. Sweaty and wearing a shit-eating grin I dumped a layer of warmth since temps were now 30ish. And went for the first hike of year to Avie Basin. Again, I saw untracked at the west end of the saddle and got sucked in. And bid farewell to DB and son who let me tag along today. One sketchy hit on bomb debris and then it was all new snow for my marking. The wow lasted until I realized I was the first and had to cut the long contour traverse to Damn Fine Forest. 10 sweaty minutes later, a few minutes to cool down, and I was at Ken’s Run. Named by/for me back in the long past when hardly anyone skied this area. Still got untracked for the most part.

So, rode up and skied my first groomer of the day. Wow, these things are a cinch. Gave me a leg rest and a cool down and I tucked my tired legs between my legs and called it a day. No we didn’t miss it, you shoulda been here today.

Kkz

Forecast

Today’s warm temps won’t feel so good as the snow cools down tonight and tomorrow. A big storm comes in thursday and friday. Temperatures will be cold enough for snow but wetter than the past storms. Sounds like winds could be a problem for lifts running on thursday and/or friday. I’d check your favorite forecast thursday night (or Crystal early friday morning) and see what’s up.

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No Need to Wander

I took the morning shift. I was solo today, as half the crew is on injured reserve (I consider TB to be injured since he has to work) and the other half is galavanting out of state. I find myself a little slow to get motivated when solo. Greeted by unexpected sun shining on the snow made it easier as the beautiful weather helped show off slopes covered in new snow.

Green Valley Bowl was OK - smooth new covering unseen bumps - but I didn’t come for OK. I felt obligated to ski Iceberg as a warmup as it was smoothly groomed with a 4” coating of new. At 12° there was nothing warm-up about it. Memorial was more invigorating trying to navigate the occasional jarring bump mixed in with the fluffy ones, all hidden by a boot-top layer of light new.

Since it was no time to waste a sunny morning poking around, I headed right to Exterminator. Shhhhh, not a track in sight. I skied untracked shin deep new snow, over a soft fluffy base, from top to bottom. Next lap there were a few other tracks, easily avoided. Two runs and I had my money’s worth for the day (he has a pass, and didn’t pay anything). But there was still plenty of time and the sun was still shining soooo, off to my favorite, Employee Housing.

Something about both Exterminator and E-Housing. Being able to see the bottom from the top and knowing it’s 1,600-1,800 vertical feet of steep, trees if you want them, all untracked snow, and as I enjoyed the view there was not a soul in sight. Or a person, never seen a soul. Do they ski? Bouncing through shin deep new, face shots hitting knee deep fluff piles, dodging in and out to the trees, and nailing perfect turns on the steep roll-over when my brain said I’m going to fast. I wish the Amigos were there at the bottom. I always feel awkward Whohoooing when there is no-budy to hear.

When you find a good thing. Or two. Why wander. I spent the morning trying to figure out which I liked better. Exterminator or Employee Housing. In honor of the Oscars, I picked The Terminator on my third to last run. And then changed it to E- Housing which I repeated for my last two runs. Did miss my ski Amigos, however.

And then the weather moved in, the fog started collecting, snow started falling, and this well satisfied boy headed home.

Kkz

Forecast

Light snow showers should will provide continued refreshment tuesday and wednesday. Cold temps will keep the snow light. Late thursday through friday morning will be stormy. Lots of snow, but winds might shut things down friday. A few days for timing to change, however.

Chilly, Crunchy, Chunks of Cheerfulness

I was surprised by the crunchy sun damage on the sun facing aspects - no sun today even though it was forecast. Surprised as the temps have been cold. And discouraged as my early morning pokes all came up as no repeats. It’s hard to commit to a Top 2 Bottom poke with conditions like today as it might be:  1. Run of the day, 2. OKish, or 3. Two thousand feet of I-want-to-go-home whininess. Hoping I would pick the Goldilocks run, I headed to Exterminator.

When I arrived, early, as I’d forgotten how fast you can get out of the city on a weekend, the lodge was packed. Packed with junior hopefuls hoping they could cliff jump bigger than the other hopefuls and win a prize. But, they disappeared to compete, and when I got to Exterminator, I was alone. Well, Patrol was cleaning the rope line monitored by Foster the Dog. The Terminator was a little tough, but best of the day so far, and on the long run close to the trees I was able to get the ski juice flowing. OK, found one run, and even if I have to lap it all day, it could be a good day.

It was 13 degrees made colder by the unfortunate fog that moved around the peaks. The snow was full of crunchy chunks that alternated with soft, patchy bumps. Exterminator’s just-around-the-cornerness from yesterday’s sun made all the difference. So I repeated it. And then Northway. Paradise Bowl, Bruce’s Bowl and Low Chair Bumps. Wohoooo. Funny/odd/interesting how a subtle direction difference in which way a face faces (face faces, guess that’s their job) can make the difference from crunchy and unskiable to lumpy and fun. Similarly aspected Employee Housing demanded a repeat. Although, I wonder how the mountain can demand anything. It might be my steep adrenaline demanding brain. Found a tiny sign on a lone tree spared by the Employee House avalanches. Anyone know what KT3 means? The sign must be old as it’s barely readable (“Kick Turns? Three” it also said).

And so it went. And I went home. Satisfied by unexpected big Top-2-Bottom runs.

So, I learned something about the weekend crowd. As we skied Exterminator, Bruce’s, Paradise, and EH, there was no one there. On a weekday, that’s where many people would be. On the weekend they’re all on the groomers or in the lodge, as they were both packed. Good for me….

As I parked today it was passive aggressively suggested that my quick, performance snow tire clad, AWD, car was a mid-life crisis car because I passed a slow dawdling Lexus driver. If that’s the case, I’ve been in mid-life crisis mode since I was 19. All my cars have been the best performing, best ski car I could find. And, since I was in high school, my passion was steep, narrow, high performance skiing. And I still is. Midlife crisis is for people that gave up on their passions and dreams and then try to recreate them. I’ve never given up. Even though I’ll be joining the social security crowd soon, I’m keeping the dream alive. Don’t stop setting those goals and reaching for them. I’m gonna enjoy being a crotchety old man. An old man that doesn’t get down on others for being faster, steeper, and pushing the limits. Even as we succumb to the hazards of time.

Ski hard, ski often

Kkz

Forecast

Leftovers tomorrow morning will give way to sunday snow showers. Monday looks good for tracking up sunday’s new snow. Light snow continues tuesday and wednesday.

Worth the Drive?

Hopefully the round trip drive is shorter than your ski day. Squeaked one into that metric under marginal conditions. Marginal conditions for me, that is. Not for the mass of humanity that swarmed to the mountain to ski icy groomers and dodge blue and red poles on even icier slopes (my first weekend day of the year). Nicely, the trip from Bumfuck City to The Claw was traffic free, only had to pass one slow pickup. On the Claw-to-Crystal segment, we fell in line behind a long line of snowplow-hindered traffic (there was no road snow) and parked in the butthole of A-Lot. A long walk to the lodge found mobs of sapling skiers taking nearly every seat, chowing down on Crystal’s best breakfast thingies, and preparing to do battle with colored poles for a top spot on the honor list. Thank you, racers, as that kept most of the crowd out of the lift lines for the day.

Crowd rant over, we loaded C-Nook at 8:30 to get an early start on tearing up what ever we found. I was wary of conditions after this week’s rain event. And it took an hour of poking to confirm (firm is in that word, did he do that on purpose?) wariness justified. Four to six inches of windblown smooth snow over ice of various shapes. Blue ice that still showed 2-day old groomer marks, hidden hard mogul ice, or crunchy chicken head ice. It was easy to find. Variable Conditions was the call of the day as each turn was different. I cancelled the tear it up part.

A few nice turns in Avalanche basin. Too few, given the long traverse in and out. In Powder Bowl, I linked 3 good turns to each bad one - an improvement. All the way from Avie Basin to Snorting Elk without much difference, I was about to give up all hope. Only untried area was Northway. Sounded like a bad idea, but it provided the best runs of the day. Paradise Bowl - Penny Dawgs, and the funnest, most unexpected - Chairline Bumps. Slaloming the Low Chair signs reminded me of the Old Days banging a line down K2 Face with a chair, people, and skis a few feet over your head. But, I guess these days skiing a nasty bump line under the chair, inches from sudden doom, doesn’t get even a slight Whoop from the chair riders. Kids these days. I’m 2 feet away from you and can hear you talking as I drop these huge moguls! Oh well. Mogul skiing is a lost, unappreciated art, I guess.

Low Chairs? Where's your Whoops?

Low Chairs? Where's your Whoops?

As I left Northway, the wind picked up, the fog picked up, the snow (an icy sleety snow), picked up and Luckyshot (it wasn’t so Lucky) tried to erase the fun of the Northside. As I’d crossed the threshold of ski time being greater than drive time I was in the OK to leave zone. And so we did.

Kkz

Forecast

Who knows? Today’s snowfall was lower/slower than expected. Tomorrow will be cool, snowy, and crowded - Sounds like a repeat of today. Tuesday - more of the same weather. I’m out with Home Improvement Projects till thursday or friday and don’t see much improvement by then. As all the good forecasters say…. We’ll see.

Crowd forecast, after tomorrow - this weekend should be the last big crowd of the season as ski schools wear off and people need to mow their lawns.

Opposite Day

A week ago I was skiing in 18-24” of heavy powder. Today, 40 plus degrees, no coat, and soft spring snow. I expected to ski an hour or two of icy groomers till the sun softened the overnight freeze. Out of the gate (there’s no gate) the groomers were soft carvable, and smooooooth. Everyone was sleeping in, I guess, and with The Place to ourselves, it was high speed carving fun. GV Bowl was just soft enough to provide an amusing way to get to Iceberg - Iceberg not living up to its normal reputation of the brrraaap, brrrrraaap, corduroy I expected.

The groomer fun lasted for an hour. There was an unexpected ridge-top east wind blowing, which usually cools the sunny-day softness, but today it was hot. And at 10:00 the gang did a pack stop to get rid of coats, grab cooler gloves, switch the goggles for sun glasses, and don our Hawaii/Bora Bora/Fiji shirts. Frontside bound, our stylish crew started really throwing down some energy into the now-soft bumps and steeps.

Gully Gully, Sunnyside, Showtime, Oh My. It was the Goldilocks zone of not too soft, not too hard, not too crunchy - just right. Smooth bumps (that doesn’t make sense. Was it smooth or bumpy?) you could carve, airplane turn over, or zipper line through. Perfect consistency, and top-to-Rex non-stops abounded. And then the day got big. After a fast T2B Valley-Berg-Lower Bull we had a long slow Gondy ride just as the east wind was about to put the Gondy on wind hold. Had a lot of time to look at The Terminator. Luckily, our Random New Gondy Buddy had just skied it and gave it lofty praise. We ditched the Gondy for the day (actually, they shut it down shortly after we got out) and started lapping Exterminator.

Today was a study in sun versus wind exposure versus skier grooming. And we knew where to look. Left of Iceberg, the off-piste was crusty, crunchy no-go land. 50 feet around the corner, out of the wind, Exterminator was, again, the Goldilocks balance of softness, firm under layer, and more of those smooth bumps. Oxymorons aside, run of the day as many laps ensued. 

I applaud the Amigos - the pumptitude was contagious. We skied a narrow slice of Crystal as the “extremities” wouldn’t have been good given the need for sun. Not a bad run, not a bad suggestion from the condition-knowledgable Amigos. Thanks to all that inspired me to ski hard. Unfortunately, we were down one Amigo. Amigoette is recovering from last monday’s level 2 MCL strain. She’s a tough one and will be back soon.

Kkz

Forecast

Looks like tuesday will be more of the same. Wish I could go. Especially since wednesday brings an unwelcome return of rain, all the way to the top. Cooling temps thursday might add some snow, but I’ll wait and see if it’s enough to hide the nasty ice on friday.

Tough Fun

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - Hunter S Thompson

And it was weird today. Undeterred, we weirded it out, had some fun, and ended up very tired. Every forecast had a different prediction of how today’s battle between dry cold to the north and warm wet to the south would transition. None expected the heavy precipitation that added three inches of new snow between 5 and 8am. And another 3-4 inches by afternoon. Normally this would be great news, however, the underlying cut pow from monday was now thick and heavy and lumpy and…. It was tough, as the first dozen turns down Valley Bowl determined. Enough new snow to smooth out the look. Tense legs were hard to turn as they anticipated the next jarring transition into a deep heavy pocket or hard packed bump. And so it went.

For the next 3 hours we tried our best to beat the snow into fun. Occasional success. Occasionally it beat the legs into submission.

Hoots of the day, without any actual hooting involved, were C-3 Chairline, Lower Exterminator Left, Lower E, Middle Upper Bull, C1 Chairline, Deerfly, and Snake Pit.

Tough runs of the day were C-3 Chairline, Lower Exterminator Left, Lower E, Middle Upper Bull, C1 Chairline, Deerfly, and Snake Pit.

Leg burners of the day were C-3 Chairline, Lower Exterminator Left, Lower E, Middle Upper Bull, C1 Chairline, Deerfly, and Snake Pit.

Just plain tough were Door 1, Valley Bowl, and LS Trees. Actually, LS Trees might have just been a loser.

Adding to the toughness was a 10 minute power outage that put all the chairs on diesel at 11:00. Sitting on the cold, slow chair, it was hard to enthuse the cold muscles back into tough ski mode. At noon the arriving front bumped up the wind, later closing 6 and Gondy, and the snow turned to sharp wind blown ice crystals. Door 1 turned my legs to noodles. And we all agreed it was time to go.

All the above is academic based on the forecast,
Kkz

Forecast

Short version - Not good.

Rain to the top, lots of it, tonight and tomorrow as base temps get into the 40s. Crystal’s already announced the top will be closed thursday. Plummeting temperature friday will mean horrible ice, with a dusting of snow on top of the ice saturday. Dry sunday and monday, as of now, cold sunday, warm monday. Hopefully the weekend crowd will smooth things (aka frozen lumps) out so monday’s warmth will be fun.

Bittersweet

First we got the sweet, then the bitter. But really the first and longest part of the story was driving.

Woke up before the alarm and saw the expected snow in Seattle. We were planning on leaving early and changed the plan to Extra Early as all indications confirmed traffic would be in full blown FREAKOUT Mode. And it looked like a fun adventure testing the new Skibaru® in some real snow conditions. Freakout Mode was confirmed, even at 5:30am, by the few tentative, slow, scared-shitless drivers out early. I was surprised that a number of them pulled over -thanks for letting me pass - and then turned around to bail and go back home. Slicing and dicing around the scared - even had to holeshot a snowplow at a traffic light to get around - the Skibaru performed flawlessly. A combination of the best AWD system around, awesome snow tires (Blizzak WS80s), traction control, and, new-to-me, CVT.

The best test of traction was an unexpected detour. The bridge across the Green River Gorge was closed, due to trees down and an injury accident we found out after struggling to get information from a Because-I-Said-So officer. Dejected, we turned around thinking our day was done. But! There’s the Green Valley Road that bypasses the bridge as we knew from when the bridge was out all season a few years ago. A quick turnaround and we were back to Crystal bound. Through 12” of slippery, snotty snow. Down a very windy slippery hill. Into Bumfuck Nowheresville. Where there’s no cell reception to keep the map going. It was a dark and stormy morning when we caught up to a Huge SUV as they jammed on their brakes, slewed sideways, and stopped. I gave them room. Only a tree across the road. That required 2 traction controlled wheels onto the shoulder, inches from the ditch, and only slightly dragging the treetop down the side of pristine Skibaru. (Just looked, I think it will rub out) We kept going not because we wanted to ski, but because I thought we might not be able reverse our way back up. Although the snow was now only Subaru Clearance deep (9” BTW). And then…. A real road. The Claw bound we were. And then, 410. The best traction conditions of the last 1.5 hours and….. stuck at 40mph for another hour. Who are these guys? Drawn by the big pow forecast, a day off due to closed schools, work, or sick days… and they can/want to ski the steep and deep, but can’t drive in the snow. (today’s quiz - Guess who spent too much time today dealing with crappy snow drivers/vehicles?)

Enter the sweets of the day. The smoothly covered mountain awaited. A little heavy, not expected from sunday’s reports, required just a little twist of the momentum dial and you entered WhoooHooosVille. Memorial’s odd bumps were wind drifts. Door One was in and out fun. LS Trees awesome untracked till it got flat. By our Bear Pits poke, there wasn’t much untracked left (Don’t you guys have jobs?). At 10:00 Exterminator was nice skiing cut pow. Bull Run was even nicer. And we went completely Old School and did C-1 Chairline for the first time since they took out the chair. Well worth it, as everyone there (sorry about you two stuck in the last deep dip) whooped and hollered over the scrubby trees, big fluffy drops, and quick must-make-turns.

Green Valley was weird. Lots of traverses to cross, lots of heavy lumps…. etc. And then, we headed to Bear Pits. A huge, unseen in the flat light, whoopdeedoo slammed the first Amigo, jammed the second, gave me a back zinger, and swallowed Amigoette. And spit her out. Enter the bitter. She tried to compensate for lack of M with extra V, a tough call for lightweights that, subject as we all are, to Momentum=MV2. That usually works. Until the whoopdee is waist high, a field of gray in the flat light world, and slams you into a double ejection head/back/knee extravaganza. A dip that wasn’t there earlier ate my ski buddy. One tough girl she, skied Bear Pits with a cramping back and sore knee. But, our day was done. Too short. But she’ll be back. You pays your money, or time, or driving, with this sport, and we’re all one foggy unforeseen obstacle from a short day.

Take Care,
Kkz

Forecast

Limited new snow, but tuesday sounds like a good leftover day. Wednesday starts cold and ends hot. I predict a lot of mashed potato stuff. Looks like rain to the top on Thursday and entering a freezing level battle on friday. Tough calls all around.

Ice to Nice

The warmest morning of my season opened to some great snow, and some crunch. The usual poking around separated the former from the later till the sun softened the later. (That’s really confusing…. What did he say?)

From the git-go, the north side of The Valley held fantastic snow. If the whole mountain felt like that, woulda been another Top Three Day ®. As it was, it led to Iceberg which was groomed so smooth, and actually carvable, and the only way down required too much speed. One and out. Memorial was 2” of crunchy new and smooth on top, frozen lumps below. I’d be back. Luckyshot trees was…. “interesting”, Bear Pits was pockets of soft, interspaced with icy bumps. Waiting for warmth to soften the crunchies, headed to Powder Bowl expecting a long drop of snow resembling Green Valley. Nope. Fist drop of the year through the rocks of Main Chute was nice, but the bottom half had me zigging and zagging trying to figure out the ice versus crunch versus soft ratio.

I’m lucky to have an adventurous crew to ski with. I tossed out Northway and everyone was in. Bruce’s Bowl delivered and CD and I split paths around The Nose, rejoining in the tight trees where normal people hadn’t ventured. Awesome. The bottom Chairline Bumps were big, alternated soft and hard, and awesome (He used awesome twice, is that allowed?). Next I played Crew when the Employee Housing suggestion came up. Gate 9 was smooth crunchy new - I love the sound as you slice through it - till mid-way where I moved to the shade for different awesomeness (there he goes again). We rode the Gondy up with a couple of other old school CM rats who jumped in our bucket at the last minute. They behaved, we behaved, and a splendid time was had swapping Best-Line-of-the-Day stories.

Favorite blue on my favorite sunny day runs

Favorite blue on my favorite sunny day runs

And then, the forecasted high freezing level completely changed the day. For the good. Previously unskiable crunch was now either soft carvable semi-firm or soft lumpy leftovers. It didn’t matter as we went into Blue Angel mode - minus smoke again, dang it - and did our best to…… The top half of smooth untracked needed tracking. The bottom half needed skier smoothing. Non-stop Frontside runs ensued. I don’t think we accomplished either, but it was well worth the effort. The only thing better would have been getting paid to ski it. (Note: I’m sponsored by K2 (cost me 800$), Dalbello (cost me 500$), Smith (250$), and my new sponsor, Giro, only cost me 200$). Guess the money making aspect of my ski career isn’t working out so well.

Someone (me) suggested skiing North GV to Banana Chute, just because I was lovin’ The Valley, and in the middle of an insomnia episode I was thinking “why is it called Banana Chute” the other night. The entry to B-Chute, normally a wild ride, made my sphincter tighter than anything in the last 2.5 years. The sketchiest, butt-pucker, entry where even the side step in scared me. One must-make turn (sorry JD) and then some of the best snow of the day. But, the mountain spanked me down later. Note: The mountain ALWAYS wins.

On our last run (North Valley-C-3 Chairline-Berry Patch-Lower E) I made it through the trees into the Chairline. A patch of ice, OK, into the soft new, OK, into…. Crap (not my exact thought) one ski, deep in the loose snow hit something hard enough to stop said ski, spin me into a head first downhill fall. Just as I thought, hope that ski releases, it popped (thanks, Marker) and I tried to flip over to get the other ski into the snow. Oops, flip again and slide face first for another 30 feet. Luckily, no obstacles interfered and I stopped. Stopped without hitting anything, but landed 60 vertical feet below my ejected ski. Kicking toes into the steep 45° slope, it took me 10 minutes to hike up to my ski/pole and another 5 to get back into my bindings. It looks a lot different going up than going down. Thanks to everyone on the chair that pointed out I had a long way to climb back up.

Thanks to my Amigo that waited to make sure I got reconnected. And it was perfect timing to end the day as the early setting sun was re-crunching the snow. Time for this one to go home.

Kkz

Forecast

It will be very nastily frozen tomorrow morning. But, good news. Once sun softened, the freeze/thaw will improve the consolidation. Looks like warm and maybe some rain sunday. Monday will depend - warmish with new = OK. Rain sunday and cold monday - I’ll stay home.

Blue and Warm

What a fun day! Marginal snow conditions for the most part succumbed to the exuberance of our full gang of retired life-long Crystal skiers (come on TB, we need you during the week). The weekend warriors left things in two states. Skidded ice and loose but clumpy piles. Are we going to have to step in on saturday and sunday with lessons on correct skier grooming? So it took a few scoping laps to separate the nasty from the delightful and link together the correct lines (I picked delightful).

The last day we skied with the deep blue sky that only altitude and contrasting white snow can deliver was 5 degrees. Today we reveled in the warmth of snow-warming sun and awesome visibility. As they warmth progressed, the icy spots got softer and the new snow got heavier. Luckily, enough old-man strength existed to make all but the iciest and crunchiest aspects skiable. When in doubt, I followed my Amigos, tried to keep up, and it turned out great. Come to think of it, I didn’t see another skier other than our gang on Bear Pits, Showtime, Breakover, Sunnyside, Memorial, Grubstake, C-3 chairline, Berrypatch, LS Trees, Doors 2-1-Zero, Green Valley North, Windy Pass… Guess we skied a mostly Rex day.

The Gang of Six didn’t call a specific run and we’d yell out six different lines at the top. Spread out on the GV Cat-track and follow the Blue Angel plan, minus smoke (we need to get some smoke), and then six swoops back into the Rex lift line right on queue. As we traded stories on the chair, the next run would evolve. Run was a vague idea as we spread out, sometimes over the whole Frontside. And so it went. I’ll cut the conditions report short here as the Days-That-Follow will have no resemblance. As the low winter sun set about 12:30 you could feel the sun damage on the slopes. By 1:00 it was set. We need snow - not gonna happen in the forseeable, forecastable, future - or heat/sun.

Disclaimer: Received some negative energy (aka bullshit - oh he said a bad word) from some other skiers. This report might be biased in the realm of good skiers having fun in weird conditions.

Kkz

Forecast

As above, we need sun and/or heat to make the slopes good for the non-ice-liking crowd. As the sun lowered today, it got extra crispy. It’ll only get worse as the week progresses. Warmth and sun will be your friend of the foreseeable future. Clearish, sunny, warm and you should go. Cold, windy, cloudy…. It’ll be nasty.

Commitment

Based on thursday’s reports, I was anticipating bad to poor conditions. Hoping for some overnight snow that would entice me to go, I loaded the car thinking “I’ve already packed and loaded, so I should go” would be hanging over my head. I also put on my ski underwear before checking the weather, as “I’m already dressed” would add more to the commitment checklist. As did getting a cup of coffee and starting breakfast. Good thing, as the weather looked terrible at the 5:35 check. Frozen, windy, and no new snow over yesterday’s terrible reviews. Expecting the worst, I jumped in the Turboru to meet my 7:30 carpool rendezvous in The Claw. No way I was going to do this alone - sharing the pain was checked off my commitment list.

Windhold on the Gondy - they didn’t even have the buckets on the cable - was not a good sign when I plopped my skis in the rack. Quick, get dressed and booted so you’ll have to at least get on the chair. My plan was to last till 10:00 or 10,000 vertical. Whichever came first. Rex was running very slow due to wind. The top was no-see-um foggy. The ridge-top wind was face numbing. Feeling my way to, and down, Luckyshot woulda been pretty good (pretty poor on most days) if I coulda seen. Or felt my wind-scoured nose. This is where my amazing bunch of Amigos comes in.

Not wanting to be the wimp, I said, “That wasn’t bad”. And we foraged on. On into white-out screaming wind getting off the top - icy groomers lower. I tried a few pokes onto the off-piste and was rewarded with barely skiable smoothish wind blown ice with wind packed new behind the trees. Then the bad ideas started being proposed. I think they were suggested as a way to seal the leave-early deal (that was my plan, anyway), but….. Some areas that were nice alternated with holy shit hang on. There was just enough of the nice to cancel out the holy shits that it made it a zero sum game. And so it went for a few hours. Float some windblown new, 4-8”, over smooth ice for a few turns, tighten the sphincter for some icy chicken head dodging.

I was quite cold with the wind, fog, and lack of hard, heat-generating skiing. CD suggested a lodge break. I was in. I go into the Campbell Basin Lodge about 1 time per year. Usually due to bad weather and/or bad snow. Today had both. After a quick bathroom break, I took a look at the food lineup. There were 2 kinds of soup. Very expensive and some at half the price in 16oz cans, on ice. Oddly, the cheaper soup left me feeling refreshed and ready to ski. Back out, Cisco was a hoot of a run that led to an afternoon (short afternoon) of bad decision runs that turned out to be just over the 50% good criteria to make me forget the pain and take another. Door Zero, Bear Pits, Luckyshot Trees…. The tops were windblown ice or icy boulders of avie debris. The middles were frozen lumpy chicken heads covered in wind deposited crust. Lower it was back to trust-your-groomer smooth that alternated piles of skidded new with skidded ice (I know where the piles came from). And, lasting 3 hours past my failsafe point, it was time for this one to ski Stumpfarm home.

It wasn’t a good day. It was a horrible day made OK. Five inches of rain with a couple inches of new…. Luckily the face-blasting wind moved enough of the snow to change the conditions to glare ice or boot top new. The smooth ice was a challenge, accepted; the new was fun. Frozen avie debris and mid-mountain chickens heads, alone with the fog turning to goggle freezing crap drove us homeward as we’d skied off the pockets of new.
 
Lesson learned - Everything I’d heard, all the forecasts I’d read, said yesterday would be terrible (it was, avoided), and today would be marginal at best. At my best, marginal became OK. And with a couple ski-Amigos to egg me on, OK was just what I needed this week.

Kkz

The Worst

The Worst

Today was the worst snow I’ve skied this year. And what a hoot we had all day. Well, almost every run.

Greeted by a weird inversion, it was 17° at the bottom and 25 on top when the lifts opened at 8:45. Anticipating sun and warming temps, I was a little under dressed. And underwhelmed once again by the opening drop into The Valley; Iceberg was fast and carvable. Thought it would have to be a groomer day. The Frontside poke was skiable, but not free-ski fun. Hmmmm. Bear Pits was better, making me work for a living. Actually it was work, I didn’t get paid. This retirement ski thing is a failed business model.

But, the Fun Model kicked into gear with a faster-than-I-should-have-gone Valley-Berg-Lower Bull got the speed run award. Hmmm…. We put our minds together, maybe not all of them working at full capacity, and another T2B was proposed. Funny, the Valley Bowl, shady side, was suddenly skiing great. It started the Valley-C-3 Chairline-Sluiceway-Lower Eagle’s Drop run, and it was Fun Model to the max. Lower E was a field of perfectly space/timed smooth bumps for the I-like-bumps crowd. Note: I’m part of the I-Like-Bumps crowd and you may need to keep that in mind for what I consider great runs.

Our new Terminator line was next on the list. The snow’s in that state where wind, sun, snow change as you go from The Doors - crap - to The Frontside - crap minus 1 - to Upper Bull - lumpy crap - to Exterminator - Meh…- to Exterminator Left - Wohooo. Amazing that aspects just out of the sun and wind were still good. And amazing what the three of us found (didn’t see another person skiing out there), tore up, got a little untracked, and threw down some powerful lines that will help ruin it for the weekend crowd.

As I said, it was the worst snow I’ve skied this year. That says a lot about how good things have been so far (I took the colder than shit and no new snow week off). And how great my Local Team has been at egging each other on and finding good snow. Pickings were slimmer today, but the Poke-and-Ye-Shall-Find method of run control worked its magic. Best january doldrums in memory. So far.

Kkz

Forecast

The pickings are gonna get slimmer and slimmer as the weekend crowds smother the slopes. Groomers will get skidded and the off-piste will deter all but the unknowing. Hopefully, enough people will go off the groomers to smooth out the lumpy, chunky, crunch. I forecast a downhill slide for conditions with 3 days of MLKing holiday crowds, no new snow, and warming temps. When the new weather finally comes in late monday, the snow level will rise to mountain top and all bets (you didn’t place one did you? Oh no….) are off. Pay attention, or next week you might be skiing in the rain.

Life is Good

Life is Good

I relaxed into a cold day wearing new christmas presents of warmth. And was rewarded most spectacularly.

Every day the mountain is changing - must be its job. Amid reports of The Valley skiing great yesterday, the gang dropped off the cat track into variable weirdness. Huh? Iceberg was smoothly groomed crispness with 2” of new. It skied fine, it’s a groomer, but my freezing lips and nose sent out the please-slow-down alert through the brutal chill. I might have to re-evaluate Valley-Berger as the traditional warm up lap.

With only improvement in our sights, the call was Breakover. A resounding YEAH! usually reserved for Sunnyside rolled off everyone’s lips. The game was on. I just relaxed back and let the rest of the gang throw out ideas. Every idea was perfect and we’d lap it until it was tracked out. Did I mention last night’s refresher of snow, officially 4”, was boot to knee deep depending on where the wind blew yesterday? We had nearly a full gang of Amigos today and it still took all day to track out The Stashes. Bear Pits, Doors 1and 2 (later Door Zero) complemented my brain that was in Labrador Retreiver mode of “get the powder/stick”. It was go anywhere, go fast, and swoop back into formation at the bottom.

Chasing four fast skiers

Chasing four fast skiers

Cycle in the T2Bs of Employee Housing - not a track on it - and the New Exterminator “Area” for the big and deep. Crystal has really done a good job opening up some of The Terminator, and it’s really skiing well. The deepest route, however, will remain my secret for now (hint, see below). Lower E was in perfect form just as the ski legs were coming on-line for end-of-big-T2B-run strength mogul bashing.

As the day went on, the weather improved, becoming sunny around noon. That just egged us on to go faster, deeper, and faster. (He said faster twice…. ). Yes, faster, as you could really see the patches of untracked, take the sketchy line (we wore out the Showtime rollover, sorry, grass showing now), and ski it relaxed and easy till…..

Can't hide that smile....

Can't hide that smile....

We saved enough energy for a day ending Top-2-Bottom Exterminator. Still steep, still deep, still untracked. WOW!

Meanwhile, earlier….. 
As the gang dropped some rad lines into Eagles Drop, I was last man in skiing sweep. Just as I was turning in, just as Amigoette skied in, I caught her out of the corner of my eye high-side falling to a big plop next to a tree. She’d caught a ski in the wind packed cornice, it ejected, and she head-firsted into the deep snow. Not quite a tree well, but it was soft enough one arm was 3 feet under the snow trapped by her pole strap. Her head was not buried, but deep in the snow. Head down at a 40 degree angle, she was trapped. Luckily, she was able to move her head and breath. It took me a couple minutes just to maneuver to a stable platform where I could help her out. She might have been able to extricate herself, but it would have been a lot of work, as just moving without skis took max effort. So, 10 minutes later, skis back on, deeply buried pole found, she blasted the rest of the deep untracked. Brought some intense pain to my chest as we finished skiing the trees where a few years ago, another skier, skiing by himself, suffocated in a tree well. Keep an eye on your buds, and know where you are in case you have to call in reinforcements (ski patrol on your phone’s favorites list).

Kkz

Forecast

There might be a slight refreshment thursday, say 1-2”. Or, we might just continue into a warming and clearing trend that will cumulate friday. And last through the weekend. No new, warming, but not too warm, and I’ll transition to some excellent bump skiing.

Unexpected

Nothing happened as expected today. From expectations of the last two days to expectations of the next run, all bets were off. We lost the first two bets and then won the next 2 dozen.

After all the 2-feet-of-new hype, we left early this morning expecting a long line of weather-watchers on 410. Instead, Maple Valley had everyone in FREAKOUT MODE with a little, very little, black ice. So, 25, then 30, finally 40 all the way to The Claw. After that, where did everyone go? Or not go. No one going to Crystal, and it was an easy, nice, competent drive to an empty parking lot. Unexpected. So we partied on the Group W bench catching up with friends and anticipating a great day.

Until… We started skiing. Dropped into Green Valley Bowl and it was… Can’t decide whether to say weird, or nasty; it was both. (That’s not a good sign.) IceBerg was…. a groomer. A crunchy cold groomer. Not to worry, Memorial must have some better snow in the trees. Crap (not what I actually said), it was wind-scoured junk over icy crunch. Not much better down low. With a sad gut feeling, I launched the this-might-be-the-first-bad-day-of-the-year program.

Amigoette decided The Doors would be a good choice. Yeah, right (Eeyore voice). Wait. What. Light new over smooth crunch skied great. Deeper and better the lower you got. And Luckyshot Trees. I did not expect shin-to-knee deep untracked. Just as we found the zone - trees and off the wind scour - JD suggested Employee Housing. Normally on a day like today, the lower aspects of EH would be hideous. But, I kinda hid my pessimism and tagged along. I still think Employee Housing is the longest continuous fall line on the mountain, but did not expect it to be nearly knee deep untracked of the best kind all the way.

And so it went. We found the aspects that had just the right amount of wind protection so the snow, that used to be on your favorite run, was now over there, or over here, or right where your ski bud led you. Keep poking around and you’ll figure our how to turn an expected low point into the 12th top three day of the year.

Kkz

Forecast

Sidebar: It’s easier to get a Top-3-Day when you watch the forecast and aren’t afraid to take yourself out of the mix. When the temperature and snow forecast is, in this old one’s mind, cold and nasty, we stayed home. Today was 10 days since my last ski day. So, getting this string of Top-Three days is not one of “go early, go often”, but more of “choose wisely”.

That said, lowland snow to the south, cooling, warming, wind…. And I’ll say - Minimal new the rest of the week with clearing weather wednesday and on. Since I have the option, Go Early, Go Often and see what unexpected fun might happen.

Pleasantly Surprised

Pleasantly Surprised

Sometimes I need help. Some say I always need help - yeah, yeah…. I was on the verge of bowing out today based on very warm temps probably wetting up the snow thursday and the cold temps expected this morning which I thought would result in a major crunchfest. Luckily an Amigo pointed out that next week, post 3 more days of holiday skidding, although sunny, would be really cold. Like zero degrees cold. And when you run out of degrees, this boy runs out of enthusiasm. 

So, although reluctant yesterday, we left extra early today to beat the swarm, hoping to get the last of the string of great days. Ended up mid swarm behind a mile backup doing 40mph and collected another mile behind us before finally getting a decent spot at the end of the 17 acre pay lot for the rich and more deserving late comers. I turned off the rant, as the buzzing swarm of humanity didn’t really care about riding the lifts - no lines - or skiing the steeps. It was cold, foggy, and said fog froze solid on your goggles 2-3 times per run. Had to use the CD Pro-Tip and hold my hand on my goggles to melt the ice, then wipe away the melt.

But the snow was nice when you could see; we hit the usual low vis spots, and tried to keep warm. A tough assignment for the skinny Amigoette. Again, ski Amigo to the rescue with some added warmth and a quick lodge sit and she was back ready to kick some steep and deep ass. The sun came out of the fog and lifted our spirits and energy. The temperature remained 15.

Campbell Basin got a few laps. Each proceeded by the major rock garden that is the top of Six. Herculean efforts by lifties and patrol have helped but can’t keep up with the holiday swarm grinding back down to the rocks each day. The short forays into C-3 Chairline showed the steeps could be good and the shin/knee deep snow was completely unexpected. And got us thinkin’. We all expected the lower portion of Employee Housing to be terrible frozen crunch. As we passed on the responsibility of making the decision (someone to blame), JD said let’s go.

What a surprise. Deep cut pow, steep rollover pow, big bump pow, sketchy twig pow. Six surprised grinning faces at the bottom. That run would have made my day - so we did 2 more. So what the heck, how about Exterminator. Another surprise, What-the-Heck untracked left from two days ago. Not any more.

As the early setting sun made it feel cold again and the big bumps of Sunnyside told me I’d skied a great day, the Amigos headed down. Down with stories of 6 tight lines (7 with the short Ferd sighting) through the steeps, bumps, and unexpected powder. Down to the base where… the swarm was massed. Not skiing, but on the deck, milling around, or waiting in the hour long Gondola line. They’ll never know

Kkz

Forecast

I’m not heading out on much of a limb by forecasting it will be really crowded the next 2 days. Parking was turn-away full down to F-Lot again today and Crystal is really hyping the festivities New Year’s Eve. Although you can’t go if you aren’t already staying there without a party-all-night drive home. The temperatures will slowly continue to drop saturday - cloudy? - and sunday - a little new snow - and end up monday with negative morning temperatures likely on top. With highs around freezing in Town all next week it’ll be really cold in the mountains. Cold, mostly sunny, and dry. Like skidded rocks on top dry. The much-needed snow will be next weekend at continued cold temperatures. Although the much needed part is wet packing snow we won’t get. I’ll forecast rock skis for the next 2 weeks.